I apologize for all the OT/Jewish questions. Fact is, I am of Jewish background and spent a decade outside of the Christian faith (became a Christian at 13, religious until age 20, slowly making my way back in), and I also suffer from OCD, so these questions plague me.
I have an Orthodox Jewish friend I’ve been debating. He mentions all the OT verses that talk about the Mosaic covenant being eternal. I’ve tried to find some Web sites to refute, some try to tackle the Hebrew use of “olam,” saying that it doesn’t literally mean eternal, but it seems like a weak argument (God often says he reigns “olam,” so we know that’s eternal; plus you’ve got use of “for a thousand generations” and so forth, as well). Some say the OT allows for modifications within the Torah, but most of those modifications seem to be pretty minor in the long run. The New Testament is talking about pretty major modifications.
So in the end, how do we tackle the idea that the OT seems to believe that the Mosaic covenant is eternal?
The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.
1 Chronicles 16:15-16
He remembers his covenant forever, the promise he made, for a thousand generations. The covenant which He made with Abraham, and His oath to Isaac.
The Mosaic moral law, encapsulated in the Big Ten, are still in force (including the fourth I argue – The Lord's Day of Rest.docx - Google Drive), and they are further encapsulated by Jesus into two. So the ‘laws of love’ (even speed limits are laws of love), moral law, is effectively eternal. Some will not be relevant ‘later’ after this age has passed, but others will.
But does the Old Testament allow for those changes to an existing covenant? The removal of dietary laws and so forth? It seems to be presented as a situation where the 613 laws of the Torah are eternal.
Good question. My ‘Reformed’ tradition makes distinctions between ‘moral law’ and others – dietary, ceremonial and civil. The former one persists and the latter do not. I don’t have a ready answer as to exactly why not, but the Sermon on the Mount occurs to me. It seems Jesus was only addressing moral law?
My grandpa was from an ultra dispensationalist movement, and he believed that if you were Jewish, you should still follow the dietary laws. That’s an interesting situation, because at least at one time, my family thought we had some Jewish ancestry on my mother’s side.
The seventh day for rest was a ‘law of love’ instituted by a Father’s right to make good rules for his household. Obedience to it expresses love and respect for God, for one thing, but it is also good for us. It’s ironic that the commandment to rest is so difficult and rebellion against it so natural.
Another popular counterargument for relaxing the commandment to relax in the New Testament comes from Mark 2:27, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath." But that falls pretty flat because that was also true in the Old Testament where the commandment was given in the first place.
I don’t think the law exists anymore or that we are under it. But it’s too big of a topic to debate for me. Just lack the passion or time needed to dedicate to it but there are hundreds of books on this subject. If it’s really important to you, I would just start looking up books on it.
I like the podcast by biblical scholar Tim Mackie and he has a series on it. Several hours worth.
One thing to decide is what is the law. Is it the 10 commandments. Is it about wearing clothes or two blends? Is the word the law even a good way to see it. Is its interpretation better understood as the teachings.
For example , again with the sabbath.
It says sabbath was made for us. That means the sabbath is supposed to be helpful for us, not restrictive. That’s why even though picking grains was a sin, and Jesus did sin according to the law, he said no…… you misunderstood, did not David also break the law to eat? So it comes down to is the law supposed to make you starve or help you relax. If it’s supposed to help you relax, then Jesus was following the spirit of the law but not the letter of law.
The law says to stone an adulterous woman and eye for eye but Jesus says to turn the other cheek and only cast stones if you are sinless.
It’s why Peter also saw the uses of the symbolism of “don’t eat or drink” in acts.
Hebrew parallelism comes into play here and it’s very important, because these two terms are equivalent: “forever”, and “for a thousand generations”. The Hebrew for “forever” is"עוֹלָ֔ם" (oh-lahm), and in the Septuagint is is rendered by the word “αἰῶνα” (ai-OH-na), which describes the duration of an “age”. “עוֹלָ֔ם” is similar though it has some other connotations, one of which is indicative of boundaries and limits. So between the Greek and the parallelism we gather that the term doesn’t mean “forever”, and indeed was not equivalent to “aeterna” which is the Latin word used to translate “עוֹלָ֔ם” and “αἰῶνα” and from which English translations have tended to take the meaning (even though translators have known better for quite some time) – it just means “a very long time”, and that long time continues until it boundary is reached, and that “boundary” is actually indicated by the “thousand generations”, since a thousand in ancient near eastern number symbology indicates not just a long time but a long time that has come to completion (and we know it’s not literal since the ancient Hebrews and others considered a generation to be forty years; forty thousand years is not something anyone back then would have taken literally).
So the Chronicles passage can be used to interpret the others: it is not an “eternal” covenant in the English or Latin sense of never ending, it is an “age-wise” covenant that will last until it has come to completion, i.e. when its purpose is done.
A case can thus be made that the Mosaic Covenant will endure until Messiah comes, since the Messiah is supposed to set things straight so that with His presence the Mosaic Covenant will be superseded. This is confirmed by the declaration in Jeremiah that God will make a New Covenant and write the Torah in the hearts of His people, with the result that they won’t need the written Torah any longer.
Not according to the Holy Spirit as recorded in Acts 15 – he reduced both the Abrahamic and the Mosaic covenants to just four items.
In the Greek it is; the root meaning of πληρόω (play-RAW-oh) is “filled” and by extension “completed”. The original meaning of “fulfilled” was the same; a thing could be “filled”, and/or it could be “full-filled” or filled fully. The Greek word is used to mean “fill”, “finish”, “pay off (completely)”, “(to) complete” in both extra-biblical and biblical usage. It generally conveys the idea that no more can be added or done.
This fits with Paul’s description of Torah as a tutor to lead to Christ, and his note that once Christ has come we no longer need the tutor.
Actually it wasn’t. The proscription was against “harvesting”, i.e. using a tool to cut grain and take it away. The Torah specifically said that someone walking past a neighbor’s field could pluck grains and eat. Technically He didn’t even violate the Pharisees’ interpretation since He didn’t used a tool to cut the stalks nor a tool to crush the grains before eating – they were basically being jerks to try to get a rise out of Jesus.
Maybe not so much? They were pretty much all Jews who knew the basics as a given, especially the moral law encapsulated in the Ten Commandments. They did not want to burden the Gentile believers with ceremonial law (circumcision) and dietary laws, nor have the appearance of evil to those who did not know (including outsiders) that meat was just meat, even if it had been offered to idols.
And they may have been familiar with the Sermon on the Mount.
Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:19
Those speak to Jesus’ perfect righteousness, not that any moral law was revoked or discontinued.